How Digital Technology is Helping Patients Manage Chronic Pain

(STATEPOINT) Digital apps have long existed to help people lose weight or track exercise, and now, developers are providing new high-tech ways for those living with chronic pain to track key measures of their conditions­—providing a solution to one of the biggest challenges patients face.

For Elizabeth Newman, a 57-year old Chicago native, chronic pain is a way of life and a challenge she shares with more than 100 million Americans. Newman’s chronic pain started after an accident that resulted in a herniated disk and nerve damage that affects her legs and arm. She also has seven fused vertebrae, a spinal surgery that more than 400,000 Americans have every year. While millions of Americans rely on medications such as opioids to treat their chronic pain, Newman has started using a new mobile app to help tackle some of the complexities of living with chronic pain.

The app and website Newman recently discovered is called PainScale, which offers digital tools that modernize how we understand and communicate about pain. The app gives users an opportunity to track key measures, such as pain levels, medication use, treatments, and activity levels. It also provides general information about treatment options and how to connect with a pain specialist in the area. Patients can share information from the app with their physicians, who may decide to use the information to tailor a treatment plan and assess what may not be working with their current approach.

“Using PainScale has motivated me to track my pain more consistently, which gives my doctor a better understanding of what I am experiencing, rather than relying strictly on memory. That helps us connect in how we manage it,” said Newman. “Every day I read articles on the app and bookmark those that I find helpful so that I can stay up-to-date on information about my condition and learn about new approaches.”

The free app, which was developed with support from Boston Scientific, provides a range of tools, including a customized daily newsfeed that is personalized to each user based on his or her pain diagnosis, as well as the opportunity to learn about treatment options, exercises, medications, and nutritional tips that may help improve quality of life. It also allows users to connect and share their treatment experiences and gain insights on how others have managed their pain. For more information and to download the app, visit PainScale.com.

Digitizing the traditional one-to-10 pain scale that physicians have relied on for decades to characterize patients’ pain is simplifying the way pain is tracked, to keep up with the 21st century. If you are suffering from chronic pain, talk to your doctor about new resources and treatment options that may be available.

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